It’s been a difficult decade for young people across the UK, and new research, publishing today, shares insight into the concerns and priorities of people aged 10 to 21 around England, outlining their vision for a better future.

Co-ordinated by The Young Foundation and driven by a £150,000 investment from The National Lottery Community Fund, this research was designed and led by young people aged 16 to 20. It identifies access to opportunities and greater support for mental health as key priorities for UK youths.

The young people interviewed say they feel they have missed out on many of the usual milestones, development opportunities and chances to build skills, networks and experience. Whether that’s learning to drive, getting their first part-time job, a seminal Freshers Week, or even the experience of sitting a traditional exam in a silent room, young people say they feel increasingly ill-equipped for the transitions they face at this stage of life.

Evidence from Skillsbuilder shows that developing ‘essential skills’ – such as teamwork, creativity and problem-solving – can make a significant long-term difference to people’s lives. Indeed, the Skillsbuilder research links the acquisition of essential skills with increased wellbeing, and finds people with essential skills are 52% less likely to be out of work or education. They also boast an average wage premium of £3,900-£5,900.  This confirms that essential skills are crucial, not just in bolstering individuals’ progress, but in raising our collective confidence to shape a better future for us all.

At The Young Foundation, we have seen the positive impact of interventions to build such among young people first-hand – not least in recruiting 22 18- to 24-year-olds via the government’s Kickstart initiative, delivering six-months’ training in peer research to individuals who were on Universal Credit and deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment. This scheme supported a diverse cohort of young people to build their ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ transferrable employment skills, and undertake new, valuable research, while also giving us the opportunity, as an organisation, to build out a much wider- and higher-impact research programme, and explore how we can open up research roles to a more diverse group of people.

Today’s research findings give an insight into youth priorities today, and I hope these will inform policymakers and funders around England, while also highlighting the importance of thinking creatively to ensure research is a career option for everyone who wants it. To build long-term prospects, self-confidence and drive across the UK, our research methods must go further to understand, involve and engage young people and work together to build a fairer future.

‘Beyond the ‘foggy and uncertain’: supporting young people’s futures’, a synthesis report by the Youth-Led Peer Research Network, publishes today.

Innovation and Investment Local government & public services Peer research Systems change Posted on: 28 March 2022 Authors: Helen Goulden OBE,


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